Last August, as I traversed the country reporting on the Trump movement in exile, I stopped over in Black Hills, South Dakota, to witness an extraordinary migratory event. Every year, hundreds of thousands of bikers hop on their Harley-Davidsons and drive thousands of miles to the open-sky freeways surrounding Mount Rushmore to attend the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, where they spend two weeks joyriding in shiny chrome flocks, thronging to Kid Rock at Buffalo Chip and knocking back Wild Turkey around campfires at night. While the Rally itself is apolitical, the merchandise is most definitely not: vendors lining the highways hawk every manner of culture-war totems, from “Trump Won” stickers and Thin Blue Line flags to Three Percenter and other right-wing militia gear.
I was reminded of the Sturgis rally this past week as I scanned the headlines for any sign of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the patrician, centi-millionaire couple who were, for a time, arguably the most important members of the unruly administration of Donald Trump. Their soft power in the White House was often exaggerated but nevertheless undeniable. In the early days of 2017, Trump was a magnet for second-stringers, opportunists, and ne’er-do-wells: Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Michael Flynn, Michael Dubke, Sebastian Gorka, K. T. McFarland. But as one after another fled or were fired, Jared and Ivanka were the last ones standing—often performing the Gary Cohn or Mark Milley role as advisers who could hide the nuclear football or monitor his intake of red pills.
And yet, during the supposed interregnum between Trump administrations, as the ex-president’s allies plot his return from his “Winter White House” in Mar-a-Lago, the power unit known as Javanka is noticeably absent. “I haven’t heard Jared’s name in a political context since January,” an influential Trumpworld advisor told me. Ivanka, who briefly flirted with a Senate campaign in Florida, called Marco Rubio sometime after the Capitol insurrection to tell him she wouldn’t be running.